Mac Jones

Patriots Select Alabama QB Mac Jones With No. 15 Pick

Bill Belichick has finally added a first-round quarterback. The Patriots have selected Alabama quarterback Mac Jones with the No. 15 pick.

The Patriots naturally struggled to replace Tom Brady in 2020. When the team re-signed Cam Newton earlier this offseason, there was plenty of speculation that the team could still pivot to the draft (or the trade market) to find their future QB. There were even rumblings that New England would climb up the draft board in pursuit of the signal caller. Ultimately, one of the top-five quarterbacks fell into their lap without requiring any moves.

Jones naturally lands in a great spot, but it wouldn’t be surprising if the Alabama product is a bit disappointed about his slide down the board. Jones wasn’t expected to leap Trevor Lawrence or Zach Wilson, but there were whispers that the 49ers were considering Jones all the way back at the No. 3 pick. Ultimately, San Francisco opted for Trey Lance, and Jones also got leaped by Justin Fields, who went to the Bears at No. 11.

Although Jones was the least mobile of this year’s top QB prospects, he piloted another dominant Alabama team to an unbeaten season and a national championship. The 6-foot-2, 217-pound quarterback threw 41 touchdown passes, compared to four interceptions, and averaged 11.2 yards per attempt. He received the same advantages Tagovailoa did, in throwing to multiple first-round receiver talents. Both those wideouts — DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle — said they preferred Jones to Tua.

Barring a time machine from Newton (or a miraculous turnaround from Jarrett Stidham), Jones will presumably be the Patriots starter by the end of the 2021 campaign. New England has loaded up their offense with targets, including tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith and wideouts Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne. While the Patriots never really had a reason to select a first-round QB with Brady under center, it will now be fascinating to see how Belichick deals with such a high-profile prospect.

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49ers Down To Mac Jones, Trey Lance?

The 49ers’ focus at No. 3 appears to have narrowed to Alabama’s Mac Jones and North Dakota State’s Trey Lance (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero). Pelissero notes that Lance and the Niners chatted following his second pro day last week, which was specifically tailored to Kyle Shanahan‘s favorite drills. 

Previously, the 49ers were believed to have three quarterbacks in consideration with Justin Fields completing the trio. Now, it seems that the Ohio State star is no longer in the mix. This jibes with a recent report from NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport, who now seems on course to be available for the Falcons at No. 4.

Lance seems to have the most overall buzz of the three, since he’s believed to have the most upside. Jones, despite his 77% completion rate last year, seems to have garnered disproportionate attention from the Niners. Still, NFL.com’s Mike Garafolo (Twitter link) has yet to hear from an executive that thinks it’d be crazy for the Niners to take him (and mortgage future picks for him) at No. 3.

Mac’s a stud,” said the anonymous executive. “[He has] everything you want.”

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49ers Down To Mac Jones And Trey Lance

The 2021 NFL Draft is right around the corner, and the first two picks are more or less set in stone. Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson are widely expected to be picked first and second respectively by the Jaguars and Jets. The big question has been what the 49ers will do at three, and their decision will set the table for the rest of the draft.

Now, we’re starting to get a better idea of what San Francisco is going to do. The 49ers are down to Alabama’s Mac Jones and North Dakota State’s Trey Lance, sources told Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link). That would rule out Ohio State’s Justin Fields, who was seen as the other contender to be taken third overall. Jones is the favorite, while Lance has been not far behind through the process.

When the 49ers pulled off their shocking trade to move up to number three and draft an eventual Jimmy Garoppolo replacement, Jones quickly emerged as the rumored target. Some found it difficult to believe that Jones, unheralded as an NFL prospect before 2020, would really be Kyle Shanahan’s preference at number three.

But that’s what most of the reporting has consistently indicated, whether college football fans want to believe it or not. Many believe that Shanahan has fallen in love with Jones’ pocket presence and footwork. Lance is the far superior athlete, and is viewed as having sky-high upside while at the same time possibly being a riskier proposition.

The news also means Fields will be there for the taking for the Falcons if they want him at four, or for a potential trade partner with Atlanta. There are still a few days until the draft kicks off on Thursday, but things are beginning to take shape.

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Poll: How Will Broncos Address QB Need?

The only two starting quarterbacks to retire after winning Super Bowls played for the same franchise. While the Broncos made the playoffs multiple times in the five years following John Elway‘s retirement — with the likes of Brian Griese and Jake Plummer operating as the team’s primary starters — they have hovered off the contention radar for most of their post-Peyton Manning stretch. No team has started more quarterbacks than Denver’s 10 (counting the Kendall Hinton game) since 2016.

This stretch has placed the Broncos back on the quarterback radar. Although their last foray into the first-round market careened off course quickly (Paxton Lynch in 2016), the Broncos’ three subsequent QB investments — Case Keenum, Joe Flacco and Drew Lock — largely struggled. Will this run of futility at the NFL’s premier position force the Broncos to acquire one of this year’s top QB prospects?

New GM George Paton has said multiple times this offseason the Broncos will acquire a quarterback to push Lock, but it is not certain that will be a rookie. Denver brass, however, did extensive work on this year’s top passer crop. Paton was at Justin Fields and Trey Lance‘s initial pro days, while offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur trekked to the second workouts held by the Ohio State and North Dakota State QBs. Other teams have viewed Denver as a stealth quarterback seeker as well.

Only two of the draft’s top five passing prospects will be available to teams picking after No. 3, with the 49ers moving up for a quarterback. Considering the needs of some teams picking outside the top 10 — the Patriots, Washington and Bears have been linked to trade-up maneuvers — and the not-impossible prospect of the Lions (No. 7) or Panthers (No. 8) jumping into the fray, it is possible the Broncos will be left out if they stand pat at No. 9. They are believed to have inquired about trading up, though Paton denied this. The Falcons (No. 4), Dolphins (No. 6), Lions and Panthers are all open to trades, creating opportunities for the Broncos and teams eager to trade in front of them.

Given the Broncos’ above-average defense and bevy of skill-position weapons, going into another season with Lock (29th in 2020 QBR) could lower the team’s ceiling — in a hot-seat year for Vic Fangio. But Fangio’s status could also push the team to trade for a veteran instead of hoping this year’s fourth- or fifth-best QB prospect can make an impact right away. Although the Broncos sat out the free agent market and passed on trades for Carson Wentz and Sam Darnold — after falling short for Matthew Stafford — veteran arms remain available.

Paton was with the Vikings when they drafted Teddy Bridgewater in the 2014 first round; Carolina has since given Bridgewater permission to seek a trade. Given Paton’s history with the 28-year-old QB, it would make sense if the Broncos were one of the teams interestedGardner Minshew figures to be available — even though Urban Meyer denied it. The 49ers are holding out for a big offer to part with now-lame-duck starter Jimmy Garoppolo.

Lock has not been blessed with great circumstances, despite Denver drafting Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler in the first and second rounds last year. The pandemic nixed the young passer’s first offseason with Shurmur, and No. 1 receiver Courtland Sutton went down in Week 2 last year. But the 2022 quarterback class, as of now, has received far less hype than the past two drafts’ QB crops generated. The Broncos not making a move for Fields, Lance or Mac Jones next week could limit their options going forward.

How do you think the Broncos will play this? Will they prioritize acquiring another quarterback by trading up or hope one falls to No. 9? Vote in PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your thoughts on this situation in the comments section.

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Latest On Sam Darnold, Panthers’ Draft Plans

Shortly after the Panthers’ trade for quarterback Sam Darnold was completed, it was reported that Carolina would pick up Darnold’s fifth-year option for 2022. After all, it wouldn’t make sense for the team to trade three draft picks for a young passer without giving that passer at least two seasons to show what he can do.

However, the club has not exercised the option just yet. As Joe Person of The Athletic points out, virtually no teams have made official decisions on the fifth-year options for their 2018 first-rounders (the deadline to do so is May 3). So it could simply be that the Panthers’ brass just hasn’t gotten around to it.

Or, it could mean that the club is waiting to see if a collegiate passer it likes falls to its No. 8 overall selection. According to Person, the Panthers are not in love with Trey Lance or Mac Jones, and it’s a foregone conclusion that Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson will be the first two players off the board. So if Ohio State signal-caller Justin Fields — who is said to “intrigue” the Carolina front office — is there for the taking at No. 8, perhaps he could be the pick, which could lead to Darnold having his fifth-year option declined.

A source tells Person that Darnold’s option is still expected to be exercised. And with the Panthers having emerged as a legitimate trade-down candidate, perhaps this is all part of a ploy to drive up the price of the No. 8 pick. A trade down the board would allow Carolina to recoup some much-needed draft capital while still putting the team in range for one of the draft’s top cornerbacks (according to Person, the Panthers are high on several first-round CB prospects). Although Oregon’s Penei Sewell will likely be gone by the time the Panthers are on the clock, another quality LT could be had at No. 8 or a little bit later if the team chooses to move down.

In addition to Darnold, Carolina also has another 2018 first-rounder, D.J. Moore, to make a fifth-year decision on. The Panthers will almost certainly exercise his option, which checks in at $11.116MM, so the team may need to part with Robby Anderson in 2022. Which means, as David Newton of ESPN.com writes, a wide receiver like Alabama’s DeVonta Smith or Jaylen Waddle could be in play. Either receiver would go a long way towards helping Darnold both this year and in the future.

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Latest On Trey Lance, Justin Fields

Trey Lance conducted his second pro day Monday in Fargo, North Dakota. A few notable teams attended the event. While previous reports indicated the 49ers, Falcons and Broncos were to have personnel at the showcase, the Patriots were there as well.

The Pats sent Eliot Wolf and director of player personnel Dave Ziegler to observe Lance, Albert Breer of SI.com notes. The Panthers and Bears are not believed to have sent representatives to watch the North Dakota State prospect throw this time, Breer adds, though both teams were at his first pro day. Washington, which has been linked to Lance recently, did have a contingent present, Dan Graziano of ESPN.com tweets.

[RELATED: 49ers Open To Drafting Trey Lance?]

Lance ran 49ers drills at the workout. The idea of working in Kyle Shanahan‘s offense appeals to Lance, Justin Fields and Mac Jones, according to Breer. Lance and Fields opted to go through with second pro days in order for Shanahan and John Lynch to be on-hand. Lance has worked with QB guru John Beck in recent weeks and, per Graziano, did so at Shanahan’s request (Twitter link). San Francisco’s staff gave Beck a set of drills for Lance to work on during the leadup to his second pro day. Shanahan coached Beck when he served as Washington’s OC in the early 2010s.

The Panthers sent their top brass to Lance’s first pro day March 12; Matt Rhule, GM Scott Fitterer and OC Joe Brady made that trip, Breer adds. The Bears sent Matt Nagy to watch Fields’ second pro day last week, with Washington having director of college scouting Tim Gribble at that event. Nagy and GM Ryan Pace made the trip to watch Lance last month but were not believed to be at Lance’s second throwing session, which, like Fields’ workout sequel, was closed to media.

Denver OC Pat Shurmur was at both Fields and Lance’s second sessions, and while the Broncos are not a lock to draft one of this year’s top five passers, teams believe they are lurking as as stealth QB suitor, according to Breer. The Broncos are set to pick ninth. One of those QBs could well fall to them, but the Broncos have also been linked to a possible trade-up for a quarterback. The team last drafted a first-round quarterback in 2016 (Paxton Lynch) but has never selected one in the top 10. If the 49ers take Jones, the Broncos would stand to be in play for Lance or Fields.

Poll: Who Will Falcons Draft At No. 4?

This year’s draft is almost certain to begin with Trevor Lawrence going to the Jaguars and Zach Wilson to the Jets, making the 49ers’ No. 3 overall pick the beginning of what promises to be a drama-filled top 10. Just behind San Francisco, however, a team faces a more complicated decision.

Picking in the top five for the first time in 13 years, the Falcons hold the No. 4 overall selection. They have a few intriguing options; each would represent drastically different paths for the franchise. After previously not being on the same page about the pick, new GM Terry Fontenot and new HC Arthur Smith are believed to be in agreement now. Which way should the franchise go?

Fontenot was believed to be leaning toward acquiring Matt Ryan‘s heir apparent. There are reasons to support this route. Ryan will turn 36 this year, has not made a Pro Bowl — in the easiest era for such an honor — since his MVP 2016 season, and the Falcons have a rare opportunity to draft one of this year’s prized QB prospects. While late-blooming prospects will likely emerge, the 2022 quarterback class is not currently rated highly. Drafting Trey Lance, Mac Jones or Georgia native Justin Fields — two will be available — would give the Falcons a player around whom the new regime could build. The Falcons proceeding in this direction would make this the first time a draft has started with four quarterbacks being chosen.

[RELATED: Who Will 49ers Draft At No. 3?]

When the duo was believed to be split, Smith was viewed as being in favor of selecting a player who could help a still-Ryan-centric team. With Ryan still an above-average quarterback, and the Falcons possessing needs elsewhere, a case certainly exists for the team to stay the course with its veteran passer. The Falcons having restructured Ryan’s contract earlier this year also would limit their benefit from a rookie-QB salary in 2022. The Jaguars and Jets have no veteran quarterback contract of note on their books, and the 49ers can part ways with Jimmy Garoppolo without much of a dead-cap hit. The Falcons have more than $40MM in Ryan signing bonus money prorated beyond 2021.

With the 49ers having traded up for a quarterback, the Falcons have the chance to take this year’s top non-QB prospect. Many experts believe that is Kyle Pitts, and many around the league expect the Falcons to draft the Florida tight end. Pitts said the Falcons are interested, and the 6-foot-6 pass catcher would team with Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley to form an imposing aerial trio. The Falcons could also take Oregon tackle Penei Sewell. However, the team has 29-year-old left tackle Jake Matthews and used a first-round pick on right tackle Kaleb McGary in 2019.

Option 3 would be moving the pick. The Falcons are interested in moving down, likely eyeing the type of trade package the Dolphins received (three first-rounders and a third) to do so. Multiple teams have contacted the Falcons about moving up. Washington is believed to be high on Lance, while Broncos GM George Paton has been busy trekking to QBs’ pro days. The Bears are eager to acquire a long-term QB as well, though Washington and Chicago’s draft slots — Nos. 19 and 20 overall — would up Atlanta’s asking price.

So, how will the Falcons proceed? Vote in PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section.

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West Notes: M. Jones, Seahawks, Clinton-Dix

It has been looking increasingly likely that the 49ers will draft Alabama passer Mac Jones with the No. 3 overall pick of this year’s draft, and ESPN’s Adam Schefter said just yesterday that Jones would be the Niners’ pick. But Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network isn’t as convinced. On a recent PFN Draft Insiders podcast (link), Pauline said he is hearing that whether San Francisco goes with Jones or one of Justin Fields or Trey Lance is a 50-50 proposition.

Of course, this time of year is notorious for false leaks and misinformation, but the Niners are at least doing their due diligence on Fields. The Ohio State QB will hold a second pro day, and 49ers HC Kyle Shanahan and GM John Lynch are expected to attend.

Now for a few more West-related items:

  • The 49ers have hosted DL Ronald Blair on a visit, as ESPN’s Field Yates tweets. Blair, whom the Niners selected in the fifth round of the 2016 draft, was a useful piece of the team’s pass rush rotation during his first few years in the league, but he suffered a torn ACL in November 2019, and it was later revealed that the ensuing surgery was not successful. Though he re-upped with San Francisco on a one-year deal last March, he did not play in a single game in 2020.
  • Cornerback Quinton Dunbar recently signed with the Lions, but the Seahawks wanted to retain him, per Brady Henderson of ESPN.com (via Twitter). Seattle has lost both Dunbar and Shaquill Griffin in free agency, and though the club did bring Ahkello Witherspoon aboard, CB is still an area of need.
  • The Seahawks continue to seek offensive line depth. According to Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network, Seattle visited with guard Cody Wichmann today (Twitter link). Wichmann, a sixth-round pick of the Rams in 2015, has managed to land a couple of reserve/futures contracts and a spot on the Cowboys’ practice squad in 2018, but he hasn’t played in a regular season game since 2016. He has 18 career starts to his credit.
  • After the first few weeks of the new league year, the Raiders still have a glaring need at safety, but they don’t seem too worried about it. According to Vic Tafur of The Athletic, the only FA safety Vegas was in on early was Rayshawn Jenkins, who inked a four-year, $35MM deal with the Jaguars. Players like Kenny Vaccaro, Duron Harmon, and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix remain available, and the Raiders actually had Clinton-Dix in for a visit in March. Tafur suggests that the 28-year-old may have an offer in hand from Vegas and could be waiting for the market to pick back up before agreeing to a deal.

49ers Likely To Draft Mac Jones?

Prior to the 49ers’ trade that vaulted them from No. 12 to No. 3 in this year’s first round, Mac Jones was mocked by some to fall out of the top 10. Scouts Inc. rates the Alabama prospect 19th overall. But the noise surrounding the one-year Crimson Tide starter going in the top five has not quieted.

The 49ers are likely to select Jones with this year’s No. 3 pick, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com said during an ESPN radio interview Tuesday (Twitter link). When asked about the 49ers’ likely choice, the longtime NFL insider quickly indicated it will be Jones.

Shortly after the 49ers made the trade with the Dolphins, Kyle Shanahan said he was comfortable three of the top five quarterback prospects in this year’s draft being the team’s long-term answer. While the fifth-year 49ers HC added that he could reach a stronger comfort level with the other two, only three received his immediate approval stamp. It is obviously uncertain which quarterbacks fall into which category, but it should be assumed the 49ers reached a consensus before trading up.

The 49ers are considering Jones, and NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah and ESPN.com’s Todd McShay have mocked Tua Tagovailoa‘s Tuscaloosa successor to San Francisco. When Jones and Justin Fields were pro day participants on the same day last week, Shanahan and John Lynch trekked to Alabama to watch Jones. Fields and Trey Lance are considering staging second pro days to throw for Shanahan, Lynch and Co., but the Jones-to-San Francisco buzz has been building for several days now.

Although Jones is the least mobile of this year’s top QB prospects, he piloted another dominant Alabama team to an unbeaten season and a national championship. The 6-foot-2, 217-pound quarterback threw 41 touchdown passes, compared to four interceptions, and averaged 11.2 yards per attempt. He received the same advantages Tagovailoa did, in throwing to multiple first-round receiver talents. Both those wideouts — DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle — said they preferred Jones to Tua.

Shanahan and Lynch insisted Jimmy Garoppolo remains in the team’s plans for 2021, though the 49ers do not appear completely against trading their current starter. They are likelier to move on from Garoppolo in 2022, after giving Jones a year to develop in a backup role, Schefter adds. This reality unfolding would represent a remarkable rise for Jones, but as the likes of Joe Burrow, Baker Mayfield and Carson Wentz have shown in recent years, late QB value ascents are certainly not shocking.

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49ers Considering Mac Jones At No. 3

Alabama quarterback Mac Jones is squarely “in the conversation” for the 49ers at No. 3 overall, according to ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter (Twitter link). Presumably, that group also includes Trey Lance and/or Justin Fields, who are eager to showcase themselves in front of John Lynch & Co. 

Needless to say, Trevor Lawrence won’t be there for them. BYU’s Zach Wilson probably won’t be available either, now that the Jets have moved on from Sam Darnold. The Niners say they’d be comfortable with three quarterbacks in this year’s class, which is why they vaulted up from No. 12 in last week’s trade.

We looked at how our four years have gone and we looked at how we want the next four years to go and we looked at where we’re at in the draft and the options that are there,’ head coach Kyle Shanahan said earlier this month. “And that’s why sitting there looking at this stuff since January and going all the way through the process, we felt pretty strongly we were gonna be left at the altar sitting there at 12.”

Neither Shanahan nor Lynch attended Lynch’s pro day at North Dakota State. Instead, they went to Tuscaloosa to watch Jones throw. Jones was pegged as a mid-first round type just a few weeks ago but, apparently, the Niners are quite serious about making him the third overall pick.

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